On the Elements of Being: I
Williams (Donald C.)
Source: Mellor & Oliver - Properties - Oxford Readings
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. First philosophy, according to the traditional schedule, is analytic ontology, examining the traits necessary to whatever is, in this or any other possible world. Its cardinal problem is that of substance and attribute, or at any rate something cognate with this in that family of ideas which contains also subsistence and inherence, subject and predicate, particular and universal, singular and general, individual and class, and matter and form. It is the question how a thing can be an instance of many properties while a property may inhere in many instances, the question how everything is a case of a kind, a this-such, an essence endowed with existence, an existent differentiated by essence, and so forth.
  2. Concerned with what it means to be a thing or a kind at all, it is in some wise prior to and independent of the other great branch of metaphysics, speculative cosmology: what kinds of things are there, what stuff are they made of, how are they strung together? Although "analytic ontology" is not much practiced as a unit under that name today, its problems, and especially the problem of subsistence and inherence, are as much alive in the latest manifestoes of the logical analysts, who pretend to believe neither in substances nor in universals1, as they were in the counsels of Athens and of Paris.
  3. Nothing is clear until that topic is clear, and in this essay l I hope to do something to clarify it in terms of a theory or schema which over a good many years I have found so serviceable that it may well be true.


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